With the impending launch of the new Toyota Supra (2018 Toyota Supra) we thought it would be a good idea to do a buyer’s guide for arguably the most famous Supra, the Mk4. The new Supra looks to be a real winner, but it was the Mk4 that sent the Supra name to the stratosphere.
For this Toyota Supra buyer’s guide we are first going to run through a bit of history and specifications of the car, so if you already know about the history of the Mk4 feel free to skip on ahead.
The History & Specs of the Toyota Supra Mk4
Japan’s motor industry experienced a period of incredible success from the late eighties to the late nineties. It was a period of exciting, world beating cars that would go onto become one of the most memorable periods of motoring. Toyota’s rivals launched magnificent cars like the FD-series Mazda RX-7, the Nissan GT-R and the Honda NSX.
To keep in play with their competition Toyota decided that it was time to launch a new version of their Supra range. Following the end of the Mk3’s production in 1992, Toyota launched the Mk4 Supra at the 1993 Chicago Motor Show. This had been in development for four years by the time of launch, under the guidance of Toyota’s chief engineer, Isao Tsuzuki, who had also worked on both generations of the MR2 and the Celica.
The Mk4 Supra was a bold new move for Toyota and the car’s flowing design shared more in common with the 2000GT of the sixties than its predecessor. With its long, low bonnet and optional-high-rise spoiler the Mk4 Supra was aerodynamically efficient and oozed performance.
Compared to the outgoing car, the Mk4 Supra was shorter, lower and wider, while being 100kg lighter. The weight saving was down to Toyota using lighter materials and they even used hollow carpet fibres to save a few grams!
Powering the Mk4 was either a naturally aspirated or twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre JZ-series straight six engines that offered anywhere from 220bhp to 326bhp (Japanese manufactures at the time limited the horsepower of their cars to 276bhp). The top-spec turbo offerings were mated with Toyota’s first six-speed gearbox that meant the Supra could now offer supercar like performance.
In its turbocharged form the Supra could achieve 0-60mph in as little as 4.6 seconds and could hit nearly 180mph. Japanese models were limited to 112mph (180km/h), while export models could hit 155mph (250km/h) before the limiter stopped them going any further.
Rather than making the turbos operate in a parallel mode, Toyota designed them to be sequential. This resulted in boost and enhanced torque as early as 1,800rpm. At 3500 rpms some of the exhaust gases are sent through the second turbo for a “pre-boost” mode and at 4000rpm it kicks in properly.
While the turbocharged version of the car received the new V160 gearbox, the naturally aspirated versions had to make do with a five-speed manual W58 gearbox, which was revised from the previous car. Each model of the car was also offered with a four-speed automatic with a manual shifting mode.
With the Mk4 Supra, Toyota went to new lengths to save weight. They used aluminium for the bonnet, front cross member, the suspension upper A-arms, the oil and transmission pans, and the targa top (when that was fitted). Toyota also used hollow carpet fibres, a magnesium-alloy steering wheel and a whole host of other lightweight parts to shed any excess weight off the car.
By the late nineties, sales of sports coupes like the Toyota Supra were declining rapidly in North America. This meant that the car was withdrawn from the Canadian market in 1996 and the United States market 1998. Despite this, production of the Supra continued in Japan until August 2002 and was only stopped due to new restrictive emissions standards.
Toyota Supra Mk4 Specifications
|Model||Supra (SZ, SZ-R)||Supra Twin-Turbo (RZ-S, RZ, GZ)|
|Year of production||April 1993 – August 2002||April 1993 – August 2002|
|Layout||Front-engine, rear-wheel drive||Front-engine, rear-wheel drive|
|Engine/Engines||3.0-litre 2JZ-GE Inline 6||3.0-litre 2JZ-GTE Inline 6 – Twin Turbocharged|
|Power||220 – 225 hp (164 – 168 kW) – depending on the market||280 hp (209 kW) – Japan|
320 hp (239 kW) – Export
|Torque||284 Nm (209 lb ft)||438 Nm (323 ft-lb) – Japan|
458 Nm (338 ft-lb) – 1997 VVTi Japan
427 Nm (315 ft-lb) – Export
|Gearbox||5-speed W58 manual|
4-speed A340E automatic
|6-speed V160 or V161 manual|
4-speed A340E automatic
|Suspension Front||Double wishbone||Double wishbone|
|Suspension Rear||Double wishbone||Double wishbone|
|Brakes Front||2 pot with 296 mm (11.6 inches) rotors||Pre 95 – 4 pot, 296 mm (11.6 inches) – Japan|
Post 95 – 4 pot, 323 mm (12.7 inches) – Japan
4 pot, 323 mm (12.7 inches) – Export
|Brakes Rear||1 pot with 307 mm (12.1 inches)||Pre 95 – 2 pot, 307 mm (12.1 inches) – Japan|
Post 95 – 2 pot, 324 mm (12.7 inches) – Japan
2 pot, 324 mm (12.7 inches) – Export
|Tyres Front||225/50ZR16 (SZ)|
225/50ZR16 92V (SZ from around 1996)
|Tyres Rear||225/50ZR16 (SZ)|
225/50ZR16 92V (SZ from around 1996)
245/50ZR16 (Non SZ models)
|Wheels Front||16x8JJ aluminium||17x8JJ aluminium|
|Wheels Rear||16x8JJ aluminium|
16x9JJ aluminium (Non SZ models)
|Weight||1,410 – 1,510 kg (3,109 – 3,329 lb)||1,490 – 1,570 kg (3,285 – 3,461 lb)|
|Top speed||225 km/h (140 mph)||250 km/h (155 mph)|
|0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)||6.2 seconds||5.3 – 5.7 seconds (depending on market)|
Toyota Supra Mk4 Buying Guide
So now that we’ve gone over a bit of the history of the Toyota Supra, it is now time to get to why you really came here. Buying a Toyota Supra can be a bit of a daunting task. While the car is actually about as bullet proof as a sports car can get, there are some things to look out for. We have listed these below:
Arranging an Inspection of an A80 Toyota Supra
Setting up an inspection is an important part of the used car buying process, especially with something as expensive as a fourth generation Toyota Supra. Below we have listed some things to keep in mind when arranging an inspection:
- Look at the Supra in person or get a reliable third party to do so for you – Buying a used vehicle sight unseen can be a risky thing to do. Try to inspect any Mk4 Supra you are seriously considering buying yourself or get a reliable third party to do so for you. Some auction sites like bringatrailer.com assess the cars on their website prior to putting them up which does reduce the risk of purchasing a vehicle sight unseen quite a bit. If you plan to import a Toyota Supra Mk4 from Japan, we recommend that you go with a trusted importer who can help you with the process (more on that later).
- Try to inspect a particular Supra Mk4 at the seller’s house or place of business – We recommend this as it can give you a good idea of how and where the fourth generation Toyota Supra you are interested in has been stored. You can also get a bit of a look at the type of roads the car is regularly driven on – are they really rough or are they smooth? Bumpy roads with lots of potholes could lead to suspension, wheel or tyre damage.
- If possible, set up an inspection for a time in the morning – This will give the seller less time to clean up any issues such as a big oil leak and they will be less likely to pre-warm the Supra’s engine.
- Take somebody with you – Bringing along a helper is always a good idea, even if they are not that knowledgeable about cars. They can give you their thoughts on the Mk4 Supra you are looking at and they may be able to spot something you missed.
- Avoid inspecting a used Supra in the rain – Water can hide numerous different issues with the bodywork/paintwork, so try to rearrange for a different day if it is raining. If you do happen to inspect a Supra when it is raining, try to go back for a second viewing.
- Be cautious of freshly washed cars – This is largely for the same reason as above, but a seller may have also washed the engine bay and underside of the vehicle to cover up something like an oil leak.
- Inspect the car in direct sunlight if possible – Be careful when inspecting a used vehicle indoors (showrooms, warehouses etc.). The light in these sorts of places can often make the paint look better than it really is and some issues may be covered up.
Steering and Suspension
The Mk4 Supra is a bit of a beast in this area. Toyota essentially over-engineered the suspension and the steering systems of the fourth generation car. Most of the parts are robust and reliable, however, a worn set of dampers will make the car feel uncomfortably wobbly and indirect.
Vibrations through the steering wheel could be something like an out of balance wheel, a damaged tyre or even a bent/warped wheel. Below we have put together a bit of a check list when inspecting/testing the suspension and steering components:
- Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
- Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration – Try launch the car after it has warmed up properly and only if you can find a safe stretch of road.
- Tipping during cornering – especially in higher speed and tighter corners
- High speed instability – does the Supra Mk4 feel floaty or indirect?
- Delayed or longer stopping distances – try some high to low speed runs – how does Supra’s the suspension feel when you come to a complete stop
- Uneven tyre wear (more on this below)
- Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension
- Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
- Sagging or uneven suspension – check that all four corners are level and use a ruler or measuring stick to make sure the height between the top of the wheel and the wheel arch is the same (side to side)
- Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive, especially in tight corners or when going over bumps (this may be caused by something else, but bad suspension and steering componentry is a common issue)
- Rattles – drive over some bumps – there should be no noise from the suspension components (however, you may hear some rattles from something in the cabin).
- Clicking sounds (especially at full lock) – usually a bad CV joint. However, clicking sounds may also indicate something like a bad wheel bearing as well
The issues above could indicate a minor or major issue, so it is important to investigate any problems thoroughly. Remember to visually inspect as many of the steering and suspension components as possible. Watch out for any leaks and check around the CV joints for any splits in the material or excessive amounts of grease. Check to see if the parts match side to side as if they do not you should be asking why (has the Supra Mk4 been in an accident? has it been maintained poorly? etc.). Watch out for any broken components or signs that the vehicle may have been in an accident.
A torch/flashlight and a mirror can come in handy when inspecting all these different components, so bring those tools along.
The Supra Mk4 is getting on a bit now, so many of the suspension elements may be worn. If you are looking at a car with worn suspension you might want to weigh up the cost of replacing it or holding out for a prime model.
A Word on Aftermarket Suspension
More than a few MkIV Toyota Supras have been fitted with aftermarket suspension. This is perfectly fine as long as it is from a good brand such as Ohlins, Koni, Bilstein, KW, etc. Note down the suspension brand and check some reviews/feedback. If it seems like a poor quality brand move onto another Supra as if the owner has cheaped out here they have probably done so elsewhere.
Another thing to keep in mind is that aftermarket suspension can destroy a Mk4’s ride quality, making it feel overly harsh on normal roads. While you may be okay with the harsh ride during a short test drive, it may become annoying on longer journeys. If you plan to use the Supra for track days, you should weigh up the extra cornering performance of aftermarket suspension with the reduced ride quality. Avoid any Supra Mk4 that has been lowered excessively.
One last thing to think about is the originality of the car. The fourth generation Toyota Supra is a serious classic now and a completely original one in good condition will command a higher price.
The brakes on both turbocharged and naturally aspirated MkIV Supras should be more than adequate for road use, so if you feel like they are a bit underpowered or spongy there may be a problem. Squealing or rumbling noises could be caused by a range of different issues with the most likely of them being something wrong with the pads.
Remember to take a good look at the brake calipers, discs/rotors and pads. Watch out for any visible signs of damage and check how much life is left in the pads. A bit of surface rust/corrosion on the discs is perfectly fine if the car has been sitting for a while (should go away after a test drive). Turbocharged Supras manufactured after 1994 have improved four-piston brake calipers at the front (and bigger discs for Japanese models).
If you notice shuddering or shaking through the steering wheel of the Toyota Supra Mk4 you are test driving it may be a sign that discs are warped and need to be replaced. This problem usually becomes first apparent under high-speed braking, so make sure you do a few high to low speed braking runs.
If the fourth-gen Supra you are test driving displays the following symptoms, it is probably a sign that one or more of the brake calipers has seized/is sticking:
- Pulling to one side (may even happen when the brakes are not in use)
- Car feels low on power as if the parking/handbrake is on
- Brakes get extremely hot and produce a distinctive acrid smell and in some cases smoke
- Car won’t move at all in serious cases
- Loud thud-like noise when pulling away for the first time
Another thing to check for is that the ABS system is working as it should. Any problems with the system should set off alarm bells in your head, so watch out for an illuminated ABS warning light. There is a really handy forum post by Ian C on mkivsupra.net that we recommend that you check out if you are experiencing issues. This post goes through a range of different things it may be along with the relevant codes. Some owners will disconnect the ABS light to stop it coming on, so make sure it illuminates when the car starts (ask them why they disconnected it as it may be a simple explanation).
Make sure that the brake fluid is topped up and there are no leaks in the lines (that you can see). The fluid should have been replaced every two years or so with some owners doing it more frequently.
Traction Control Issues
The traction control (TC) should automatically engage when the car is started. Check that the “TRAC” button works as intended (it should say “slip control off” on the dash). Many owners like to drive their Mk4s with the traction control off. Some even go as far as to remove the traction control butterfly so they don’t have to worry about turning it off when they get in the car.
While the engine of the Supra is about as bulletproof as they come, a poorly maintained car will always have problems. Export models were fitted with more durable turbochargers as they had to handle more power compared to Japanese models. If you are looking at a new turbo they can come in at a hefty cost, especially if you add maintenance on top.
If you are looking at a turbo model and it feels a bit down on power, it could be a sign that the turbo is on its way out. Also check for any smoke from the exhaust, which can mean that anything from the seals have gone to a cracked turbo housing. This can give off a blue/grey smoke, which may become more apparent if you rev the engine.
Another tip is to check for ant boost losses and do a compression test of the turbo if possible. While the Supra’s engine is tough, many owners turn up the boost which can lead to increased wear, especially on import models.
Smoke can also come from other parts of the engine as well, like a blown head gasket. A blown head gasket can cause white smoke from the exhaust, coolant leaking from the exhaust manifold, an overheating engine and white milky oil.
A well maintained Supra engine will last a lifetime if kept in good order so make sure you check that the previous owner has serviced the car regularly. Also check for any receipts or payments for any previous work done by other owners.
Both the manual and automatic gearboxes made for the Supra are pretty under stressed, however the six-speed version on the turbo-car is undoubtedly the strongest. It was made by Getrag specifically for the car and can take up to 1000hp without any work whatsoever.
There is not much to worry about here, but if you can drive the car it will let you feel how the gearbox is.
Some of the things to watch out for when it comes to transmissions is any odd sounds, delays in movement or strange smells. If the Supra you are looking at is a manual and has grinding noise or feel when you shift, it could be a number of issues. This could mean a worn clutch (if you have the clutch fully engaged and it still makes a grinding noise) or it could mean the transmission gear synchronizers may be on their way out.
The Supra’s manual transmission is typically somewhat noisy and clunky, so don’t be alarmed if you find this when testing one. If the clutch is slipping or the car is shuddering it could indicate a $2000 repair bill is near.
Automatic gearboxes are slightly different. With an auto you will most likely feel the car shimmy into each gear, instead of shifting smoothly. You may also hear a whining, humming or buzzing sound.
The Supra Mk4’s differential is enormously strong and can handle up to twice the normal power output of the car without completely failing. Depending on where you live, replacement parts may cost anywhere from $600 to over $1,000.
You may hear a clonk when shifting from reverse into first. This was normal even when the cars where new, but if you hear any whining under load that’s when you have trouble.
As with any car, the bodywork condition will be largely down to how the car has been treated and who has been driving it. Check that it is straight and examine the paintwork to see if it has been repaired at any time. You can sometimes see where new paint is slightly different to the originally. If it has a large portion repainted it could be a sign that it has been in a collision at some point.
Rust is not much of a problem on the Toyota Supra, but make sure you check the base of the tailgate, just below the rear window. Also check around the wheel arches and windows as these can be areas prone to rust.
If you need any new panels it can be cheaper to go to a specialist rather than an official dealer. Another tip is to check where the car has come from, if it has come from a place near the sea or where they salt the roads it may be more prone to rust.
Some Toyota Supra cars were fitted with Targa style roof panels, so make sure you remove it to check that the seals are in good working order. Additionally, press down on the boot (hatch) to check for any water leaks or worn buffer rubbers. If the boot struts are shot, they are not too expensive to replace, however any rusting from water leaks around that area could be an expensive fix.
Another thing to check is for any cracks or damage to the body kit, especially under the nose of the car. A large number of cars were fitted with aftermarket body kits, so make sure they fit correctly and are not loose.
Electronics and the Interior
Old electronics can be a nightmare and the Toyota Supra Mk4 is certainly no spring chicken anymore. Check to make sure each switch does what it should during a test drive, this will save you headaches down the road.
Another thing to check is that the air-conditioning and the heater give off colder and warmer air within about a minute of being turned on. Ensuring that that the ABS light comes on with ignition and that it turns off when the engine starts is very important.
Interior wise check that the seats are in good order and the general trim. Wear on the leather seat bolsters is common and can be fixed easily. Check that the gear shifter knob and the steering wheel for wear as they can be a good indicator of how far the car has travelled (if the odometer has been wound back) Also check for any rattles, especially from the dashboard. These can be signs that the car has been neglected.
Also view a car in the dry if possible. The rain can hide a whole host of problems with the car and if you do have to view it in the rain, try to go back for a second viewing when the sun is shining. If you can view the car in person that is certainly a bonus, however, the Toyota Supra is starting to become a rare car so it may not be possible, especially if you are importing it from overseas.
As the Supra is starting to get a bit long in the tooth it may be hard to find a low mileage car in good condition. A car with low K’s in good condition will fetch a premium so if you are on a budget you may want to check out some cars that have gone a bit further. If the car has been well maintained, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the distance it has travelled.
When buying a car check for any service records for the Supra. This is not only a great way to check that the car has been well maintained, but will also be extremely useful if you want to sell the car in the future. The service records will also give you a rough estimate of what it will cost to run a Supra.
Where to buy a Toyota Supra Mk4
The Toyota Supra Mk4 is fast becoming a classic and they are starting to become a little bit more difficult to find, especially if you are looking for one in good condition or not modified. There are a few different options you can go down when looking to buy a Supra Mk4 and we are going to cover them here.
Find a Supra domestically or in your local area
The first option is to obviously look in your own market or country. This is a great option; however, you may find that there are only a few cars (even less that are worth your time) on the market or that they are very expensive.
The price and availability the Supra will entirely depend on where you live and the current market there. We just had a quick look at our local market in New Zealand and only found automatic or modified Supras that looked a bit past it (at the time of writing).
If you are in no rush to buy a Toyota Supra a good option is to wait and see what comes up over a period of six to twelve months, this will also give you a gauge of what your market is like.
A benefit of buying a Toyota Supra that is already in your market is that you can possibly go and view/drive it much easier. You also don’t have to muck around with importing one and the costs that it entails.
Below we have given you a few examples of where to look for a Supra in your local area:
- Car dealer – You are pretty lucky to find a good Supra that doesn’t cost the world at a car dealer, however it is still an option to look out for.
- Internet – Websites like eBay and Trademe (NZ website) are excellent places to find cars. They are also great places to work out what sort of price range you might be looking at in your local area. You might also have luck with websites such as Reddit and its subreddits or other forums where cars like the Supra are discussed. Many people who own cars like the Toyota Supra will go on these forums to discuss their cars and they may be able to point you in the right direction.
- Owners club – A Toyota owners club or one specific for the Supra is great place to find one. These cars are often well maintained as their owners are usually enthusiasts who take pride in their machines. Most owner’s clubs will have an online presence (website, Facebook page, etc.)
- Facebook groups – Facebook groups relating to the Toyota Supra like this one are great ways to find out if there are any cars available. Bigger buy/sell car groups are also good as well, but just remember that there is a lot if rubbish that gets posted in these groups as well.
- Contacts – Easy one we know, but sometimes you or a friend may know someone who is selling a Supra.
Import a Toyota Supra Mk4
If you are struggling to find a suitable Toyota Supra in your country or local area, you might want to look at importing one. The most common country to import a Toyota Supra from is of course Japan, the car’s home.
While Japanese law makes owning older cars expensive, there are still plenty of Toyota Supras to be found there. Japan has a large car enthusiast scene so you will be able to find anything from an original model to a modified monster. Below we have given some tips on importing a Toyota Supra from Japan:
The internet is your friend
One of the best ways to import a Toyota Supra from japan is to look online. There is a vast array of websites that sell Japanese cars and you will be able to find plenty of different cars on them. The websites will also provide you with the best price options and you will be able to select the best Supra based on your available funds.
While the web is a great place to buy a Toyota Supra, you still need to be careful. Before you even think about buying from a website or exporter, check them out and see if they are a reputable company.
Here are eight websites to get you started:
What to look out for when importing a Supra from Japan
Importing a Supra from Japan is certainly a bit riskier than finding one domestically. Dealers will often get the best pick of cars from Japan since they are always in contact with their agents in the country, however, you can still find good cars.
Almost every company in Japan gets their cars the same way. The difference between them is how they have been serviced and how much information the company selling the Supra will tell you. Watch out for a company or website that will not give you or translate the auction check sheet as this can be a sign they want to hide something from you.
Japanese car auction houses and companies will grade their cars based on the condition of them. The purpose of this is to give you a quick idea of the general condition of the car. There may be a range of different quality levels within each grade, so a car that is grade 4 may almost be a grade 4.5 in quality, or it may be a 3.5. Use the grading system to narrow down the field of Supras and then use the auction sheet to determine the best one for you.
You will usually be provided with two grades: one for the overall condition of the exterior and mechanical parts of the car (usually a number), and one based on the interior condition (usually a letter). Different auctions and websites will have slightly different grading systems and methods; however, they are all broadly similar.
A quick rundown on the different grades
Grade 7 to 9 or S – new car with only delivery mileage
Grade 6 – similar to the cars above, but with a few more miles on them
Grade 5 – car in exceptional condition with low mileage
Grade 4.5 – Excellent condition, but with mileage up to 100k
Grade 4 – good condition. Could be high or low mileage
Grade 3.5 – similar to grade 4, but may need some work. These could also have high mileage
Grade 3 – usually has either serious paint or panel problems or it has had panels repaired at some point. Can also be grade 3.5 condition, but with much higher mileage.
Grade 2 – worst condition you can buy. They are not necessarily write offs, but are in very poor condition. You might find significant rust or mechanical problems with the car. Many older or classic cars are classed as grade 2. Just remember “buyer beware” if you are looking at a grade 2 Toyota Supra
Grade 1 – modified in some way (could be after-market turbo or transmission change)
Grade 0, A, R, RA – Repair history. This might range from a minor repair to a major one.
Exterior and interior grading of Japanese auctions
The exterior and interior of the Supra may also be graded by a letter rather than a number. A is for excellent, B is for average and C is for below average. You can also check the car map to see any other details for the interior and exterior grade.
Know the law when importing a Toyota Supra
Different countries have different laws when it comes to importing a car. Make sure you check the import laws in your country before you buy a Supra as you may find you are not even allowed to bring the car in. Some countries have laws that restrict importation to cars of a certain age or manufacture time.
Take a trip to Japan
Another way to find a Supra is to go to Japan and find one when you are in the country. This is obviously going to add extra cost; however, you can have a holiday at the same time. One thing to remember though is that if you don’t speak the language (or don’t have somebody to translate) you are going to have a whole lot of trouble.
If you are not confident get a dealer to import one
If you are not feeling confident importing a Toyota Supra on your own you can also get a dealer to import one on your behalf. There are usually loads of local importers and dealers in your location who can do this and have plenty of experience. This is going to add extra cost, but may be a safer way to import a Supra.
Import from other countries
While Japan is undoubtedly the best place to import a Toyota Supra from, you may find that other countries have what you need. There is less information on this, but it is another option for you to buy a Supra.
Wrapping Up Our Toyota Supra Buyer’s Guide
The Toyota Supra Mk4 is one of the most iconic Japanese cars of all time. It has a legendary status and oozes street cred, but finding a good example is becoming more and more difficult. Whether you import a Toyota Supra or buy one domestically, always check the cars condition and take your time.
This is just a quick buyer guide and history of the Toyota Supra Mk4, and there is plenty more information out there. Importing or buying a Toyota Supra for cheap is starting to become a lot more difficult, but the information should get you up to speed on everything you need to know.